// THE CONVERTED TRAIN STATION //
It has been several days but not yet a week since MEIFENG TANG has left the home of her mother and brother. She has begun to feel more comfortable in the huge, nearly empty building. It is cold, wind often seeping through cracks in the window fittings.
The young woman scavenges in the fridge. Her eyes fall on a fish dinner wrapped in a thin sheet of plastic, the inside of which is wet with condensation.
MEIFENG stands still for a moment, staring into the compartment, feeling the cold wash over her.
Unnoticed by her, a figure stands in the hallway, obscured by the refrigerator door.
SOON, YOU WON’T NEED ANY OF THAT ANYMORE.
MEIFENG jumps. She hadn’t known anyone was watching her.
I’M SORRY. YOU SURPRISED ME. I’M A LITTLE JUMPY.
She closes the refrigerator door.
TRELAINE takes a few steps into the kitchen but retains a sizeable distance from MEIFENG.
YOUR REACTION INSTINCT IS HEIGHTENED. A NEW HOME, AND MANY CHANGES FOR YOU ALREADY AND TO COME. IT WILL GET EASIER. PEACE WILL COME TO YOU AND THE FEAR WILL FADE.
The slight sound of bare feet shuffling over the wood floor becomes audible to both parties. It must be AVAELLE. MEIFENG remembers the sound of her brother’s characteristic slippers scraping against the tiled floor of their home’s kitchen.
I FILED MY PAPERWORK AND WITHDREW FROM SCHOOL.
SO WE DIDN’T DECIDE TO GO WITH THE MISSING PERSON ANGLE.
The red-haired woman leans against the door frame in her pajamas.
MEIFENG’S THOUGHT WAS THAT THE COPS WOULD BE MORE ADAMANT ABOUT SEARCHING FOR HER IF THEY THOUGHT SHE’D BEEN KIDNAPPED. A FRESH YOUNG ADULT WHO’S DECIDED SHE’S DONE WITH THE TYRANNY OF THE RAT-RACE, MAYBE NOT.
AVAELLE enters the kitchen. MEIFENG allows her wide berth to her previous position at the refrigerator.
A few moments of silence fill the space while AVAELLE removes a triangular foil-wrapped packet from the fridge. She presses the buttons on the oven’s interface, the beeping a jarring, unpleasant sound.
After the oven gently hisses to life, AVAELLE unwraps her food.
Two slices of pepperoni pizza.
MEIFENG grimaces at the food, unable or unwilling to contain her judgement. Her sneering face does not escape TRELAINE’s notice.
ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO GO THIS ROUTE? IT MAY ALL SEEM REPULSIVE TO YOU NOW, BUT AFTER YOU ACCEPT THE CURSE OF MY ANCESTORS, THERE IS NO GOING BACK.
THE HUNGER WILL FADE BUT THE THIRST WILL REMAIN.
A silence hangs in the air.
AVAELLE TOLD ME YOU’RE A VEGETARIAN.
MEIFENG responds with confidence.
SIX YEARS. DROVE MY MOTHER CRAZY. SHE COULDN’T UNDERSTAND IT.
I COMMEND YOU ON YOUR CONVICTION. SOMETIMES, NO MATTER HOW HARD WE TRY, OTHERS WON’T UNDERSTAND WHY WE DO THE THINGS THAT WE DO. WE MUST SEARCH OURSELVES BUT IF OUR CAUSE IS JUST WE MUST NOT ALLOW THE UNENLIGHTENED TO DRAW US FROM OUR GOALS.
I THINK YOU’LL BE A VALUABLE ADDITION TO MY SOLDIERS. BUT FIRST I WANT YOU TO FINISH YOUR STUDIES. AVAELLE WILL BE A VALUABLE ASSET TO YOU AS SHE HAS BEEN TO ME.
AVAELLE, now sitting atop a barstool, looks up with a shine in her eyes.
THE VISITORS COME SOON TO THIS PLANET. FIRST, THEY WILL VISIT THE COURT OF THE MOON AS THEY ARE THE MOST RECENT RULING FAMILY THEY ARE FAMILIAR WITH. SOON AFTER THEY WILL COME TO EARTH AND TRY TO SORT THROUGH ITS SQUABBLING MASSES.
WHEN THEY GET HERE, I WANT THEM TO SEE THE WORK WE’VE DONE TO BRING ORDER TO THE CHAOS. THE RABBLE WOULD REACT IN FEAR, THINKING THEIR WAY OF LIFE WORTH SAVING. BUT THEIR DISGUSTING FIXATIONS WILL SOON BE A WAY OF THE PAST.
YOU SAW THIS, REBUKING YOUR MOTHER FOR KILLING FOR FOOD. PERPETUATING THE TRADITION OF MUTUAL INEQUITY. WE WILL BRING PEACE TO EARTH AND WHEN THE FIGHTING IS DONE, THEY WILL THANK US.
YOU’LL SOON MEET MY CONTACTS IN THE GOVERNMENT AND THEY’LL TASK YOU WITH SOME TRAINING EXERCISES. OUR FOCUS IS TO PREPARE FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE FRIENDS. TO THIS END, WE MUST ELIMINATE THE NON-BELIEVERS. I’D PREFER THE EXTERMINATION BE DONE BEFORE THEY ARRIVE.
YOU ARE ALREADY FAMILIAR WITH ONE OF THE OFFENDING FACTIONS: MARSCAPONE AND HER CRONIES.
MEIFENG’s face twists to grok.
MYRTLE MARSCAPONE? MY MOTHER WOULD HAVE HER OVER WEEKLY AS PART OF HER GAME CLUB.
THE WITCH IS A REBEL. SHE REJECTS THE RIGHTFUL RULE OF THE MOON COURT. SHE IS SOMETHING OF A SECESSIONIST.
BUT I REFUSE TO OFFER OUR CROWN JEWEL IN TWO PIECES.
NO. THEY NEED TO SEE THAT WE’VE DOMESTICATED OUR LOCAL FAUNA. AND IF WE CAN ENSURE THAT IN PEACE THEY EAT FROM OUR HANDS AT THE BIDDING OF OUR VOICES ALONE THEN WE’LL BE INDISPENSIBLE.
THE TANG FAMILY HAS A PLACE IN THE GLORIOUS FUTURE, AND IT ISN’T AS A VASSAL TO A HALF-BRED HAG.
The passion with which TRELAINE delivers his speech begs a moment of reverence.
I WANT YOU TO TAKE A NEW NAME. KEEP YOUR FAMILY NAME TO FORETELL YOUR GRAND DESTINY BUT SHED YOUR CHILD’S NAME AND JOIN US AS AN EQUAL.
YOU CAN THINK ON IT A WHILE, IF YOU’D LIKE. IT’S AN IMPORTANT DECISION.
AVAELLE, perched with tension atop the stool, speaks ponderously, gently, contrasting the precise tone of his rhetoric.
‘MEIFENG’… IT MUST MEAN ‘BEAUTIFUL’ … SOMETHING.
TRELAINE does a double take, looking at her strangely, stricken.
(thinking) She couldn’t be studying the Eastern tongue now, could she?
But the women don’t notice his pause.
I DON’T REALLY KNOW. MOM TOLD ME A WHILE BACK BUT I FORGET.
WILL IT FEEL LIKE?
TRELAINE’s expression softens.
IT WAS SO LONG AGO FOR ME THAT I CAN’T ANSWER YOUR QUESTION IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY. BUT PERHAPS AVAELLE CAN.
SHE’S GOING TO BE LIKE YOUR … OLDER SISTER FROM HERE ON OUT.
AND THOUGH SHE DOESN’T APPEAR AS A VAMPIRE TO YOU, YOU MUST HAVE FAITH IN MY TRUST IN HER. SHE HAS THE MEMORIES OF MORE THAN WE KNOW.
AVAELLE sits stiffly.
AVAELLE EASTON WAS A VAMPRESS I TRAVELED WITH FOR NEAR TWO HUNDRED YEARS.
AVAELLE draws into herself, blushing, embarrassed.
I RESCUED HER FROM POVERTY AND DESTITUTION AND WE TOURED AROUND THIS COUNTRY WHEN IT WAS BEAUTIFUL AND YOUNG.
BUT SHE WAS STOLEN FROM ME, TAKEN – AND FORCED INTO HIBERNATION, WHEREON THE ENEMY STOLE FROM HER THE GIFT OF OUR CURSE.
WHEN I WAS ABLE TO RESCUE HER, SHE REMAINS AS YOU SEE HER TODAY, MEMORY LARGELY STOLEN, ENERGY AND PASSIONS ZAPPED – THE POOR BEAUTIFUL THING ROBBED OF HER ETERNAL LIFE.
I AM NOTHING. A SHADOW OF MY FORMER SELF.
The group mourns AVAELLE’s loss.
STRAUD. MY FORMER FRIEND TURNED TRAITOR. HE LURED AVAELLE TO HIS LAIR AND THEN PUT HER TO SLEEP FOR SOME FIFTY YEARS.
WE’LL NEVER GET THAT TIME BACK.
YOU MEAN VLADISLAUS STRAUD. THE ANCIENT ONE.
Insulted, TRELAINE rises to anger.
THE THIEF! THE PRIME THIEF!
HE WAS A SIMPLE MAGICIAN BEFORE HE STOLE THE SECRETS OF THE DREAMING JESTER.
A SIMPLE MAGICIAN.
BUT ENOUGH OF THIS. THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF TIME FOR HISTORY LESSONS WHEN YOU ARE ONE OF THE SLEEPLESS UNDEAD.
While TRELAINE attempts to cool his temper, AVAELLE, pizza now in hand, speaks calmly.
THERE IS REMARKABLY LITTLE TO THE RITUAL; WHAT’S IMPORTANT IS THAT ALL PARTIES CONSENT TO THE CONTRACT BEING WRITTEN.
HE’LL DRINK IN YOUR LIFE-FORCE, AS HE MIGHT ANY PREY ANIMAL, BUT INSTEAD OF LETTING YOU FALL, HE’LL ALLOW YOU A PIECE OF HIMSELF TO BOLSTER YOUR MORTAL WEAKNESS.
IN DOING SO, HE’LL KNOW YOU AND YOU’LL KNOW HIM.
YOU’LL NEVER AGAIN HAVE ANYTHING TO HIDE FROM THE OTHER.
IT WOULD BE UNFAIR OF ME TO ASK YOU WHETHER YOU ARE READY FOR THIS AS YOU KNOW NOT FULLY WHAT YOU CONSENT TO. BUT I ASK AVAELLE, IMPRISONED TO THE SHELL OF MORTALITY, ON YOUR BEHALF.
She looks with intention at both parties, who look back at her expectantly.
YES… I FEEL SHE IS READY.
If TRELAINE can do something such as smile, it seems he does.
THEN WE WILL RECONVENE AT SUNDOWN TOMORROW. THE MOON IS IN A FAVORABLE PHASE SO LET US NOT TARRY TOO LONG.
GOODNIGHT, MY DEAREST COMPANIONS. MY FRIENDS, IF YOU WON’T CONFUSE THE MONIKER.
And as quickly as he’d appeared, he vanishes from the house.
AVAELLE chews on her pizza with as much dignity as she can muster.
MEIFENG recalls a girls’ slumber party at which, despite her vegetarian leanings, she’d eaten a piece of food not so different from that which AVAELLE eats.
She’d spent the night vomiting.